Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Termites and tree roots and tear-downs o my! What to expect from your property inspection.

If you are purchasing a new home, you are likely going to be getting a property inspection.  While most Realtors see these as routine, most buyers will find them scary.  Hopefully, this will dispel some of the fear about your soon-to-be-new home's condition.

Your inspector will be checking out the house’s major structures and its systems.  These include the roof, the foundation, the electrical system, the plumbing, the garage if there is one, and the HVAC.  The other structures he or she will check are most of the appliances, windows, doors, floors, and safety items.  No house is perfect, not even brand-new ones.

Here is what very commonly comes up on home inspections.  This is mostly for single family homes, but some of the items pertain to condos, too.

First thing to know: most of the houses around here were built several decades ago.  Yes, they are old, but hopefully they have been decently maintained.  Even if they haven’t been well taken care of, remember that everything can be fixed (yes, for a price). 

Plumbing – water is a house’s enemy and some plumbing item almost always needs to be fixed or properly installed.  Also, each plumber does everything differently from every other plumber (why IS that?) and they all complain about their predecessor’s work.  The water heater almost always needs something fastened or replaced. See below about sewer inspections.

Electrical system – Most electrical panels need to be upgraded from time to time to handle new electrical loads.  The chances are that your electrical panel may not be sufficient for your power usage.  And even if your house is rewired, the previous owners may not have rewired the garage, or it may not be rewired to code. Codes change all the time.  And, in 95% of all home inspections that I’ve attended, some breaker will be wired incorrectly.  The electrical system’s problems are safety items, so please take care of the issues right away if your seller doesn’t do so.

HVAC – These systems are usually adequate unless the heater or a/c unit is really old.  Sometimes the inspector will call for the units to be fastened down better than they currently are.  Inspectors almost always call for the filters to be changed which is really easy to do.

Roof – Even if the roof is newer, the inspector will probably call out maintenance items like sealing pipes, fastening a few shingles down, replacing the ridge cap, etc.  The good news is that maintenance like this is not difficult or expensive.  Once you own the house, have a roofer check this stuff out from time to time and don’t forget to clean your gutters out.

Foundation – Many, if not most, houses are bolted, but they may not be bolted to current codes.  That does not mean that they are unsafe, but you may want to upgrade the bolting once you own the place.

Termites – This is a separate inspection from the general inspection.  Almost every house here is made of wood.  (Forget what your relatives back east tell you – you don’t want a brick house in earthquake country.) If your new home is like 99% of all homes here, it will have termites, because termites eat wood.  You may have negotiated a termite inspection and correction with your seller.  If not, you will want to have a licensed termite company take care of this.

You may also get a sewer check and a fireplace/chimney inspection.  These are difficult to critique because we can’t see what the inspector sees.  One thing, tho: I have never, ever seen a fireplace or chimney inspection that didn’t show problems. I promise you that your chimney/fireplace will not be perfect.

If there is a tree anywhere near your property, you will likely have tree roots in your sewer.  If there are just a few, don't worry.  If they block the entire sewer, you could have plumbing backups.  Watch the video with the inspector and ask a lot of questions.

I will continue to update this list as I think of other items.  Please contact me if I can help you find your soon-to-be dream home. 

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